There is some speculation about which day the early Christians considered holy. It seems that it varied from church to church. And it also seems that Jewish Christians still observed the sabbath while Gentile Christians celebrated the Eucharist on the day of the week that Jesus was resurrected, which is the day after the sabbath.
Some Christian groups still celebrate the Sabbath as being holy. They feel that the sabbath is still part of the Torah laws and that the Torah laws are still valid. The vast majority of groups set Sunday aside as the day of "rest." Catholics fall under this category.
The Catechism has this to say about the Lord's Day:
2175: Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ.....
2176: The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship "as a sign of his universal beneficence to all" Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.
So what does this observance entail?
The Catechism says this:
2180 The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass." "the precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day."
Basically this means that for Catholics to fulfill the sabbath or Lord's Day obligations they must attend Mass. This is altogether different than many of my Protestant friends' churches. Note it says you must attend that day or the evening of the preceding day, which follows the Jewish idea that a holy day starts at sundown. For some Catholics, this means that evening services held on Sunday do not meet this obligation. I'm not a theologian. I can't speak for whether it does or does not. I'm just pointing out some of the arguments for why an evening Sunday Mass is considered not fulfilling ones' obligation. But let's not get sidetracked. There is more to observing the Lord's Day.
Furthermore the Catechism states:
2185: On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse one from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.
Basically, I take this to mean thus: If you need to do something such as cooking to ensure your families good health, then this is perfectly fine. The Bible has a passage where Jesus and his disciples gleaned food on the sabbath. However, things that can be done on a different day of the week, such as laundry, mowing the grass, grocery shopping etc. should be done on a day other than Sunday.
I admit that I'm bad about doing chores on Sunday that can be put off to another day. I don't think it's immoral or horribly sinful, but I've been praying about it for a while now and feel called to make Sunday more holy. So I'm going to start asking myself what things I need to do to prepare for Sunday and what things I can do on Monday instead. This is similar to Jews who bathe and bake to prepare for the Sabbath at sundown. I've seen a few Jews at the grocery store in the early morning getting ready.
As far as works of mercy, I believe it is referring to the following:
Corporal works of mercy
- To feed the hungry;
- To give drink to the thirsty;
- To clothe the naked;
- To harbour the harbourless;
- To visit the sick;
- To ransom the captive;
- To bury the dead.
- To instruct the ignorant;
- To counsel the doubtful;
- To admonish sinners;
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offenses willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
- To pray for the living and the dead.
What about working a job on a Sunday?
CCC 2187: Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord's Day. Traditional activities (sport, restaurants, etc) and social necessities (public services etc) require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure. With temperance and charity the faithful will see to it that they avoid the excesses and violence sometimes associated with popular leisure activities. In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship. Employers have a similar obligation toward their employees.
So...we need to be careful that we are not making people work unnecessarily on Sundays. Chick-fil-A shuts down on Sundays. Here the Catechism makes allowance for restaurants, but I think that if it can be avoided, then we should try to stay out of restaurants. Perhaps only going to a restaurant when out of town on a Sunday. In my family, Sunday after Mass we had a big meal. We didn't normally go out to eat. Although as I have aged, I've been bad about eating out on a Sunday. I know that I should avoid it.
The part about avoiding excesses and violence associated with popular leisure activities made me laugh. The Super Bowl popped into my head. So don't go over board on the alcohol. Remember it's still a Sunday.
John Paul II also talked about keeping Sunday a holy day. To paraphrase he said not to weekendize it. He wrote extensively about the topic in his apostolic letter, Dies Domini. In the letter, he talks about why the day is holy. He urges priests and bishops to work hard at ensuring that this sacred day is met with value.
As I have mentioned, it's real easy to get in a rut and forget the significance behind the day when we walk out of church. It's important to refrain from unnecessary activity but spend the day with friends, family, and in prayer and study. Remembering to prepare oneself for Sunday can help just like preparing oneself for Mass by reading the readings ahead of time or listening to chant in the car ride over. These Mass preps can be extended throughout the day. I guess you could say that I'm challenging myself to Keep the Day Holy by not doing chores or going out to eat. What ways do you think you can focus on the day being holy? Try and pick one and implement. They say it takes 20 times before it becomes a habit.
I hope that you enjoyed the series. I'll have to post another set of post ideas for you to vote on soon.